This poster was presented at A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.
by Warner Cook and Amy Grossman
We propose a new framework for the treatment of developed landscapes within the National Park Service system, addressing environmental mechanisms of deterioration and how changing maintenance practices can positively preserve the ecological and cultural functions of these historic parks for future generations. Historic landscapes face threats as they attempt to adapt to new climatological conditions, and thus, a critical examination of developed landscape management is necessary for the National Park Service to continue its mission into the next century.
As participants in the 2015 Badlands Centennial Historic Preservation Studio, a joint endeavor between the University of Texas at Austin and the National Park Service, we were tasked with examining the current and future needs of Cedar Pass Headquarters in Badlands National Park through the lenses of cultural landscapes, sustainability, and accessibility. During a site visit with the Ecosystem Design Group at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we identified a range of ecological systems within and surrounding the study site. This included both areas of degradation, such as the eroded flood-prone waterway through the middle of Cedar Pass, and examples of ecologically functioning
reference sites, such as healthy sections of mixed-grass prairie farther from development. We conducted stakeholder interviews to learn about historic and current maintenance practices in the developed area of the park and analyzed geospatial data and existing literature on natural systems in Cedar Pass. We found that the main challenges were flooding and erosion resulting from stormwater runoff, limited variety of outdoor activities, and lack of delineation between public and private spaces. Applying both cultural landscape characteristics and criteria from the Sustainable SITES Initiative, we designed a framework that emphasizes rehabilitating the character and function of the historic landscape, rather than simply preserving its materials or forms.
Our proposed framework consists of three distinct landscape typologies; the first focuses on treatments for interpretative outdoor spaces, the second on intimate social gathering areas, and the third on quiet edge conditions. Our design makes these typologies more concrete through drawings that imagine their application to specific locations within Cedar Pass. One of the design examples our poster showcases, the Headquarters Lawn in front of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, manages stormwater runoff, enables a larger range of engagement and interpretative opportunities, and defines the identity of the iconic welcome center.
Looking forward to the second century of stewardship of America’s national parks, our framework incorporates sustainable landscape management and takes a holistic approach to the cultural landscape in order to preserve the spirit of Mission 66 design principles. While this research focuses on the case study of Cedar Pass within Badlands National Park, we argue that our proposed framework could be adopted and expanded to other National Park Service units facing similar environmental and cultural challenges.
Warner Cook is currently pursuing dual masters degrees in Sustainable Design and in Community & Regional Planning at the University of Texas at Austin. She works as a Graduate Research Assistant studying the origins of Public Interest Architecture in the United States, and has previously completed work studying the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture’s waste stream generated by studio courses. Her research interests include long-term planning in the face of climate change, the integration of buildings and the built environment, and sustainable waste and material cycles within regions. She received her BA in Architectural Studies from the University of Kansas in 2013.
Amy Grossman is a graduate student in the Masters of Landscape Architecture program at the University of Texas at Austin and holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Florida. Previously, she worked for the Florida Department of Health, ensuring clean drinking water around contamination areas, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, assisting with conservation planning for agricultural landowners. Her research interests focus on finding a balance between preservation of natural and cultural resources with the challenges presented by modern lifestyles.